THE SERVICE BATTALIONS IN 1919. Only the 7th and 8th Battalions remained in existence to the end of the war, and both were at Varna, on the Black Sea, when 1919 opened. Although few of their old officers and men remained after demobilization had been carried out, the two Battalions continued to receive drafts from other corps of men who had still to complete their various periods of service, and it was not until the late autumn that the Battalions were finally broken up.
8th (SERVICE) BATTALION (PIONEERS). January 1st.-The Battalion was at Varna, on the Black Sea, where it arrived in the previous week.
On the New Year's Honours List to-day Major A. E. Burt was awarded the D.S.O. Captain T. N. Watts-Watts, M.C., was awarded the Greek Military Cross, 3rd Class.
An official reception of General Gay, 26th Divisional Commander, was given by the residents and military of Varna. In course of the procession from the quay to Divisional H.Q. street fighting of a serious character occurred between the Bulgarian guard of honour and Greek soldiers. The latter were released prisoners of war returning from Belgrade via Varna and Constantinople. The prisoners of war persisted in joining in the procession and carrying a Greek flag. This became the objective of the enraged Bulgars' attack, and they succeeded in killing a few Greeks. Rifles were let off at random in the street, knives were used freely on both sides, and nothing but the timely interference of British troops averted what might otherwise have involved considerable bloodshed. The whole affair was most unpleasant for the handful of British officers (mounted) who were present.
For some time after this we had to provide a guard of 1 officer and 50 men daily, to take charge of these Greeks, so as to prevent them from killing, or being killed by, the Bulgars.
About 2,000 of these Greeks ultimately concentrated in Varna for repatriation, and their rationing and guarding were onerous duties for the units stationed at Varna.
During our stay here, the whole of the Dobruja was in occupation by various units of the Division, whose headquarters remained at Varna.
SUMMARY OF THE BATTALION DIARY :-- The Battalion remained at Varna until the 24th April, its effective strength being gradually reduced by departures for demobilization from 22 officers and 658 other ranks on the 31st January to 14 officers and 60 other ranks at the end of April.
On the 25th April the Battalion reached Constantinople from Varna, and next day crossed the Bosporus to Scutari, going into billets at Haida Pasha, where the 3rd K.R.R.C. were quartered. The reorganization of the Battalion now commenced, the 3rd K.R.R.C. handing over their personnel, animals, equipment, and stores, and officers and men joining from several other regiments, so that by the 31st May the effective strength of the 8th Battalion was 28 officers and 380 other ranks.
June was spent at Haida Pasha in such uninteresting occupations as guard duties, educational lectures, and a little specialist training. On the 18th Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Barry gave up the command, and proceeded with other officers for demobilization.
From that time the Battalion continued to serve in Asia Minor until October, when, like the 7th Battalion, it was broken up.